Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Cruising the Web

Bret Stephens expresses what I feel about the anniversary of the dropping of the atom bomb. Stephens had been reading the essay by Paul Fussell, "Thank God for the Atom Bomb and Other Essays."
I brought Fussell’s essay with me on my flight to Hiroshima and was stopped by this: “When we learned to our astonishment that we would not be obliged in a few months to rush up the beaches near Tokyo assault-firing while being machine-gunned, mortared, and shelled, for all the practiced phlegm of our tough facades we broke down and cried with relief and joy. We were going to live.”

In all the cant that will pour forth this week to mark the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the bombs—that the U.S. owes the victims of the bombings an apology; that nuclear weapons ought to be abolished; that Hiroshima is a monument to man’s inhumanity to man; that Japan could have been defeated in a slightly nicer way—I doubt much will be made of Fussell’s fundamental point: Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren’t just terrible war-ending events. They were also lifesaving. The bomb turned the empire of the sun into a nation of peace activists....

We’ll never know. We only know that the U.S. lost 14,000 men merely to take Okinawa in 82 days of fighting. We only know that, because Japan surrendered, the order to execute thousands of POWs in the event of an invasion of the home islands was never implemented. We only know that, in the last weeks of a war Japan had supposedly already lost, the Allies were sustaining casualties at a rate of 7,000 a week.

We also know that the Japanese army fought nearly to the last man to defend Okinawa, and hundreds of civilians chose suicide over capture. Do we know for a certainty that the Japanese would have fought less ferociously to defend the main islands? We can never know for a certainty.

“Understanding the past,” Fussell wrote, “requires pretending that you don’t know the present. It requires feeling its own pressure on your pulses without any ex post facto illumination.” Historical judgments must be made in light not only of outcomes but also of options. Would we judge Harry Truman better today if he had eschewed his nuclear option in favor of 7,000 casualties a week; that is, if he had been more considerate of the lives of the enemy than of the lives of his men?

And so the bombs were dropped, and Japan was defeated. Totally defeated. Modern Japan is a testament to the benefits of total defeat, to stripping a culture prone to violence of its martial pretenses. Modern Hiroshima is a testament to human resilience in the face of catastrophe. It is a testament, too, to an America that understood moral certainty and even a thirst for revenge were not obstacles to magnanimity. In some ways they are the precondition for it.

For too long Hiroshima has been associated with a certain brand of leftist politics, a kind of insipid pacifism salted with an implied anti-Americanism. That’s a shame. There are lessons in this city’s history that could serve us today, when the U.S. military forbids the word victory, the U.S. president doesn’t believe in the exercise of American power, and the U.S. public is consumed with guilt for sins they did not commit.

Watch the lights come on at night in Hiroshima. Note the gentleness of its culture. And thank God for the atom bomb.

It's never good when the words "FBI" and "investigate" are used in reference to a presidential candidate.
The FBI is looking into the security of the private email server that Hillary Rodham Clinton used when she was secretary of state, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

The newspaper also said the FBI has asked Clinton lawyer David Kendall about the security of a thumb drive, containing copies of Clinton's emails, that Kendall possesses.

The Post report cited two anonymous government officials, but said Kendall confirmed that the government was investigating the security of the devices.

I know it's not as picturesque and Twitterable as Cecil the Lion, but there is a much "bigger monster than Cecil the Lion's Killer" in Zimbabwe - Robert Mugabe. If you care about animals, contemplate this event that didn't cause a ripple in the Twitterverse.
Mr. Mugabe recently threw himself a birthday party in February at an exclusive lodge, spa and golf course in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, which was estimated to cost $1 million. The party with nearly 20,000 in estimated attendance featured main courses of a young elephant, two buffaloes, two sables, five impalas, a stuffed lion and crocodile as a gift along with 40 cows and another elephant.
But that's just the tip of iceberg of Mugabe's crimes against his own people.
The dictator also gave a 90-minute speech to his guests in which he called for the seizing of foreign owned safaris within the country’s borders, similar to his land reforms that have been disastrous for the country.

In 2000, Mugabe had landowners expelled under false pretenses that they were ruining the country’s economy, had their land seized and divided up among his supporters. The result was ruinous for the country’s economy and wildlife poaching began to spiral out of control. According to a National Geographic report, by 2007 only 14 private game farms existed in the country, in comparison to the 620 prior to Mugabe’s land reforms in 2000.

In 2002, the United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on Mr. Mugabe’s administration in response to allegations of human rights violations and election rigging. Since then, Mr. Mugabe has been outspoken in his sentiments against the United States and Britain while the majority of Zimbabwe’s population live in extreme poverty, dependent on food aid or driven to illegal practices such as poaching to eke out a living. Despite his vocal anti-Western sentiments, his country abandoned its own currency for the US dollar in 2009 after suffering from hyperinflation. When Mr. Mugabe tripped and fell in public earlier this February, his ridiculous sense of superiority revealed itself. He ordered journalists who caught the fall on camera to delete the photos, then had his administration deny the fall. ‘’Nobody has shown any evidence of the president having fallen down because that did not happen,” Information Minister Jonathan Moyo told the state-owned Zimbabwe Herald. Mr. Mugabe also fired 27 members of his security staff as a result of the fall. Mr. Mugabe has also been highly outspoken against gay rights, compared himself to Hitler at a funeral of one of his cabinet ministers, and has been quoted saying, “only God who appointed me can remove me” in response to opposition to his long rule. Mr. Mugabe’s administration is also responsible for taking money from wealthy sadists like Walter Palmer for permits to hunt endangered animals in Zimbabwe. As culpable as Walter Palmer and every other trophy hunter surely are, leaders like Robert Mugabe, who blatantly profit from the exploitation of his country and its resources, need to be held accountable as well.

The new copies of Clinton emails submitted by the State Department as the result of a FOIA request seem to indicate that, on at least one day in October 2012, the Clinton server malfunctioned.
The crash described by Abedin took place just weeks after the terror attack in Benghazi.

Critics have said the homebrew server, which may have even resided in Clinton's Chappaqua home, likely left classified and sensitive information vulnerable to cyber attacks.

Clinton has never spoken about the types of security measures she might have taken to protect the server.
Though she seems to think that the server was safe because the house in which it was lodged had Secret Service protection. Apparently, she didn't understand how hacking takes place these days.

Rich Lowry explains why you shouldn't buy Planned Parenthood's claim that abortions are only 3% of their business.
The 3 percent factoid is crafted to obscure the reality of Planned Parenthood’s business. The group performs about 330,000 abortions a year, or roughly 30 percent of all the abortions in the country. By its own accounting in its 2013–2014 annual report, it provides about as many abortions as Pap tests (380,000). The group does more breast exams and provides more breast-care services (490,000), but not by that much.

The 3 percent figure is derived by counting abortion as just another service like much less consequential services. So abortion is considered a service no different than a pregnancy test (1.1 million), even though a box with two pregnancy tests can be procured from the local drugstore for less than $10.

By Planned Parenthood’s math, a woman who gets an abortion but also a pregnancy test, an STD test, and some contraceptives has received four services, and only 25 percent of them are abortion. This is a little like performing an abortion and giving a woman an aspirin, and saying only half of what you do is abortion.

Such cracked reasoning could be used to obscure the purpose of any organization. The sponsors of the New York City Marathon could count each small cup of water they hand out (some 2 million cups, compared with 45,000 runners) and say they are mainly in the hydration business. Or Major League Baseball teams could say that they sell about 20 million hot dogs and play 2,430 games in a season, so baseball is only .012 percent of what they do.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood want to use its health services as leverage to preserve its abortions, as if you can’t get one without the other. Of course, this is nonsense. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides free or low-cost breast- and cervical-cancer screenings — without aborting babies. State health departments provide free cancer screenings — without aborting babies. Community health centers provide a range of medical services — without aborting babies.

These organizations are genuinely committed to women’s health, with no ideological commitment to abortion. Planned Parenthood’s twisted conception of “reproductive health” doesn’t extend to the baby that has been reproduced. All you need to know about its priorities is that it only provides 19,000 “prenatal services,” which means that it performs roughly 17 times more abortions.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood have taken to arguing that the group prevents abortion by providing women with birth control, in an obvious smokescreen. Planned Parenthood could straightforwardly do its part to reduce abortions — by not championing abortion, by not fighting restrictions on abortions, and, most of all, by not performing abortions.

If abortion is really incidental to what it’s all about, it could give up the alleged 3 percent. But it will never do it. Abortion is just a tiny portion of what it does exactly the way the heart is a small muscle in the body.

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Donald Trump, comfortably resting on his billions, disdains super PACs just as if he were Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. But, as the WSJ points out, we should be thankful for super PACs that allow the competition among candidates that we're witnessing.
Campaign laws limit donations to individual campaigns to $2,700, which gives an advantage to well-known or wealthy candidates. Super Pac donations can be unlimited and so they give lesser-known candidates like neurosurgeon Ben Carson or Ohio Governor John Kasich a fighting chance.

Donald Trump is taunting those who attended the Koch brothers’ retreat for donors this weekend by suggesting that his competitors are “puppets.” What he really means is that he’d prefer if they raised less money so he can have the advantage. As Mr. Trump likes to say, it’s good to be rich. But why shouldn’t a middle-class politician like Mr. Walker have a chance to raise enough money to compete with a billionaire?

Another myth is that these big donors so dominate the political debate that they drown out the voice of unrich Americans. But the candidates still have to persuade voters, and there is no shortage of media voices. Mr. Bush’s super Pac haul hasn’t spared him from being pounded by the anti-immigrant right. Super Pacs make it more likely that more candidates will be able to last beyond the three early contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and into the more populous states. This also broadens political competition.

The other complaint, especially on the political left, is that much of this cash is “dark money” because it’s secret. But nearly all such donations are disclosed, including those to super Pacs. The liberals who deplore big donations don’t mind what our friend David Rivkin calls “dark power,” which is the regulatory discretion of government bureaucrats. This can lead to the secret abuses of power we’ve seen in Wisconsin and IRS. We’ll take our chances with donations freely given than with the arbitrary and partisan rulings of Lois Lerner at the IRS or Ann Ravel at the Federal Election Commission.

In a better world Americans could donate as much as they want to any candidate, not merely to super Pacs. This would make it easier to hold candidates responsible for advertising done on their behalf. But until that day arrives, thank the super Pacs and their donors for increasing political competition.

Secretary of State Kerry gave the lamest reason ever for why the administration wouldn't submit the Iran deal as a treaty requiring 2/3 of the Senate to ratify it. He claimed that it was impossible to do so today so the administration figures that it's okay to flip off the Constitution. The timing of that statement was unfortunate.
Less than 48 hours later, Kerry’s subordinate Henry S. Ensher, the State Department’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (the same IAEA deeply involved in the Iran deal), proudly presented to the IAEA the formal United States ratification of a treaty: the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.

The treaty was just one of four related ones that the Senate has approved in recent years. The other three are the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, and two Protocols to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation. In fact, not only were the treaties approved; the full Congress this June supplemented the Senate’s approval by enacting supporting legislation that, under the terms of treaties, was necessary before they could be ratified.
Kerry even thanked the Senate for ratifying those treaties. Yet now he claims that it's impossible to ratify treaties - well, it's just impossible if it's a terrible deal. Then it's hard to get bipartisan support. Yet, that is no reason to ignore the Constitution - you know that documen President Obama swore to uphold.

Steven Hayward has been reading President Obama's new EPA rule for "Clean Power Plan" and is not impressed.
So today Obama released the EPA’s final rule for the “Clean Power Plan” that gives the EPA the power to restructure our electric utility industry nationwide. By their own admission, full implementation of the emissions targets will avert only 0.018 degrees C of warming by the year 2100. I’m sure we’ll all notice that much change in temps! But at least now we’ve “taken action” to “save the planet.”

The final rule is nearly 1,600 pages long, and the regulatory impact analysis is nearly 400 pages long, so it will take a while to figure out some of the fine points and where the mischief is.
Hayward notices something interesting on p. 636-637 where the EPA acknowledges that in the past decade, "coal-fired generation declined at a rate that was greater than the rate of reduced coal-fired generation that we expect from this rulemaking from 2015 to 2030. In addition, under this rule, the trends for all other types of generation, including natural gas-fired generation, nuclear generation, and renewable generation, will remain generally consistent with what their trends would be in the absence of this rule." As Hayward points out, the EPA is acknowledging that, without their new rule, coal energy is already declining even more than they expect from their new rule. So why do they need this new rule?

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Byron York argues that the debate at the "kids' table" might actually be a better debate.
Primetime debate candidates "have to have an effective way to move Trump from the center of attention and get the attention back on their message and issues that matter to the Republican Party," notes Brett O'Donnell, a respected GOP debate expert who this time around is assisting Lindsey Graham, "and then to go after Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, as opposed to making it a mud wrestling match."

That's a difficult task, and it's safe to say some primetime candidates will fail at it. For some, it might be better to be at the kids' table.

If you have the idea that today's congressmen are the worst our nation has ever had, you just don't know American history. we've had our full complements of idiots. And polarization has been much worse than it is now.

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John Hawkins gladdens my soul by providing his 20 favorite quotes from Milton Friedman in honor of what would have been his 103rd birthday. There is so much wisdom there; it really brings home how much we miss having his insights available for today's politics. Here are some of my favorites from Hawkins' list.
18) “It is one thing to have free immigration to jobs. It is another thing to have free immigration to welfare. And you cannot have both. If you have a welfare state, if you have a state in which every resident is promised a certain minimal level of income, or a minimum level of subsistence, regardless of whether he works or not, produces it or not. Then it really is an impossible thing.”

17) “So that the record of history is absolutely crystal clear. That there is no alternative way, so far discovered, of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free enterprise system.”

18) “It is one thing to have free immigration to jobs. It is another thing to have free immigration to welfare. And you cannot have both. If you have a welfare state, if you have a state in which every resident is promised a certain minimal level of income, or a minimum level of subsistence, regardless of whether he works or not, produces it or not. Then it really is an impossible thing.”

17) “So that the record of history is absolutely crystal clear. That there is no alternative way, so far discovered, of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free enterprise system.”

3) "Indeed, a major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it... gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself."
Go read the rest. It will brighten your day.

Milton Friedman was one of the very first people to champion choice in education. I think that he would have strongly supported the charter school movement since such schools, like the one where I teach, give parents more choice in their children's education. And since charters have to be accountable to the state requirements, failing charters get shut down. Regular public schools, no matter how miserable they are, never get shut down. So in my state where some charters have had to close, Craven County schools are failing but are not getting shut down.

Craig Shirley, who has written several books about Ronald Reagan including Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan, argues that civility in politics is quite overrated.
The elites always talk about civility in politics. That is a way to control the citizenry, by shaming them into silence when focused anger would serve the Republic better. It’s too bad there was not more incivility over the bailout of Wall Street.

Wouldn’t at least a few show trials of the thieves of Wall Street have served as an example to the people and our children of the sins of ill-gotten wages? There is something to be said for incivil righteousness.

The last thing we need in American politics is more civility. What we need is more focused anger. Anger begets debate and debate begets change. This is Donald Trump’s real contribution to the 2016 presidential contest.

Patrick Henry did not say, “Give me civility or give me death!” Liberty is often messy and yes, uncivil. Freedom is supposed to be disorderly. Nathan Hale’s hanging was anything but civil. The shot heard ‘round the world was uncivil. Christ’s martyrdom was uncivil.

Liberalism is built on order, often masquerading as justice. It is liberals who most often deride the incivility of talk radio and conservative commentators.

“Civility is claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process,” said Tomas Spath and Cassandra Dahnke, founders of the Institute for Civility in Government.

How gentle. How sweet. How un-American.

This is another way of saying, “To each, according to his needs, from each, according to his abilities.”

American conservatives believe in the free exchanges of ideas — both civil and uncivil. The gulag was civil in a fashion, as were the re-education camps.

Barack Obama is too calm, too cool for many people’s tastes. Collectivists are often that way. Talking calmly about civility while stealing your wallet and your freedoms. It is anti-intellectual, but it is civil.

A Planned Parenthood abortion factory is also civil in a way. After all, the unborn children murdered in the most inhumane fashions only scream in silence.

Would we have had the American Revolution without incivility? Would we have had the war to free the slaves without incivility? We weren’t civil to the Empire of Japan nor the Third Reich in World War II. We weren’t civil in arming indigenous revolutionary forces fighting the Soviets in the Cold War.

Charles Murray links to this idea for improving education.
Colleges and universities have been constantly complaining for 30 years or so that incoming students are in dire need of remediation1. These complaints inevitably lead into a conversation about failing high schools, accompanied by fulminations and fuming.

The correct response: Why are remedial students allowed to matriculate in the first place?

It’s not as if the knowledge deficit comes as a surprise. Most students have taken the SAT or the ACT, which most if not all four-year public institutions use as a first-level remediation indicator–that is, a score of X exempts the student from a placement test. Those who don’t make that cut have to take a placement test. Community colleges usually cut straight to the placement test. The most common placement tests are also developed by the Big Two ((Accuplacer is SAT, Compass is ACT).

So why not just reject all applicants who aren’t college-ready?

Private institutions can do as they like, but our public universities ought to be held responsible for upholding a standard.

Most states (or all?) offer two levels of post-secondary education: college and adult education. As colleges have sought to increase access to everyone who can demonstrate basic literacy (and far too many who can’t even manage that), adult education has withered and nearly died.

Pick a level and split them. My cutoff would be second year algebra and a lexile score of 1000 (that’s about tenth grade, yes?) for college, but we could argue about it. Everyone who can’t manage that standard after twelve years of K-12 school can go to trade school or to adult education, which is not eligible for student loans, but we could probably give some tax credits or something for self-improvement.
I like that. I'd like to know what argument universities would have against such common sense besides the fact that they want the money from those unprepared students.